I have this image of Sheldon Cottrell in my mind. He has run, grabbed, released, jumped, braked, stepped and caught; now he is saluting. Behind him, a stand full of cricket fans are in awe, their faces alight at Cottrell's proximity and the access they have had to his moment of brilliance. I can imagine a similar scene with Chris Woakes as the central figure after his boundary catch against India that accounted for Rishabh Pant, but it is not quite frozen in the way of Cottrell's because I was not there. When I call upon the Cottrell image, I cannot help but smile at an element of cricket so celebrated and shared.

Remarkably, neither of these is necessarily the catch of the World Cup. Ben Stokes and Martin Guptill - both at Lord's - have them covered, though not pushed aside. Catching is a skill that can be honed by anyone. This does not make it easy, but it does make it available. Hence the joy in an infant holding on for the first time or a dog leaping and grabbing. Anywhere on land and in many places at sea, catches are taken, and every time the feeling of satisfaction rewards the concentration that made it happen. We encourage children to watch the ball and open wide their hands to create the basket into which the ball will fall. When they get it, they love it and want more. Catching is a simple thing, and yet the most dramatic examples are extremely difficult. Witness Stokes.

We know this and continue to be amazed at the very best out there, some of which are mentioned above. Our enthusiasm soon becomes a collective appreciation - after all, it is nearly impossible not to tell other folk about a wonderful catch: "Did you see Stokesy yesterday...!"

More generally, it is rewarding to have seen and felt a collective appreciation of cricket emerging during the tournament. This is mainly among the converted, simply because the World Cup is not being televised on a free-to-air network in the UK, but that's okay - or perhaps we should say, it is what it is. After all, someone is better than no one when it comes to spreading a gospel that has been hidden from view. Friends with a bit of age on them marvel at the fielding, the wide range of strokeplay and the variety of slower balls; younger fans are aghast at the power and distance of the six-hitting, and the number of bouncers that whoosh through to wicketkeepers standing miles back. Though the cricket has varied in standard, the best has been exceptionally good.

A list of examples might include England's most complete one-day team. A batsman and captain, Virat Kohli, who is as charismatic and influential as either Viv Richards or Ricky Ponting. Uniquely unorthodox talents such as Jasprit Bumrah, Lasith Malinga and Mujeeb Ur Rahman. A fast bowler, Michell Starc, to rank alongside Joel Garner, Wasim Akram and Malinga, of course, as the best exponent of his art in one-day cricket. An understated allrounder, Shakib Al Hasan, who has occupied top place in the world rankings for ever and a day. A bull of a man, Chris Gayle, the leader of the band of mighty ball-strikers. And MS Dhoni, hero of a nation that sees cricket through rose-tinted spectacles.

All of these terrific cricketers perform off the cuff. There is nothing scripted about sport and nothing predictable about cricket - least of all, incidentally, the surfaces on which it is played. The game's capricious nature makes for vulnerabilities; the human frailty of its practitioners for surprising lapses; the endeavour of the committed for greatness.

Sport is essential for its ability to stimulate emotion and elation outside of life's more humdrum rhythms, and for its sense of community. These World Cup matches might not be on general release but the people who love the game share their passion. Often I have thought to myself, "How did he do that?" and then thought how everyone else must be thinking the same thing. So you ask the one nearest you, "How did he do that?!" And the answer almost always comes with equal astonishment. Achievements in cricket rarely come as we might expect them to, and more often than not, the game pops up with a surprise. Truly, with the ball in mid-air could anyone have predicted the catches by Cottrell or Stokes?

Now I wonder, will we English ask ourselves on Sunday night, "How did they do that?" We hope so but right now will settle for the same question being asked tomorrow night.

Australia in a World Cup semi-final is the most mouth-watering proposition. People ask, "Do our guys have the bottle?", to which the answer is undoubtedly yes. In such a match, the cards must fall favourably and the nerves should enhance performance by giving it edge, as against edginess.

Eoin Morgan will encourage the England players to express themselves; to show off in front of a world that has long seen English cricket in black and white - aka the 1960s - and not in the vibrant colours of the Caribbean, say, or the subcontinent. Four years ago Morgan flicked the switch with his philosophy - you might say ideology - and ever since, the other ten in that dressing-room have seen the light. There is no going back.

The England players won't fear defeat, only failure to justify the ethos. Of the three defeats suffered in the round-robin matches, the one to Sri Lanka matches that description. Defeat by Pakistan came from an unconscious complacency that was then best illustrated by the shoddy fielding - at this level you don't have to be off by much to be off. The beating at Lord's by Australia reflected a pitch-perfect performance by Aaron Finch and his team, a sure indicator of the Australians' return from the wilderness. The shocker in Leeds at the hands of Sri Lanka might just have been the wake-up call. On that day the England batsmen forgot what they were about. We must assume the lesson was learnt.

England have waited a long time for this and have never had a team better equipped. All bases are covered and form has returned. For four years the players have sparkled in a way previously unseen among England's one-day set. It is the unbridled joy of cricket that we have watched - thrilling strokeplay, attacking bowling and electric fielding, all of which are knit together by intelligent and spirited leadership. The result is an immensely satisfying sense of abandon, as if all is well with the world.

Given that sport is an escape, the audiences have been well rewarded. But now they want more. They want the Cup. Yes, they are fine with the joy of all - the sixes, scorchers and screamers - but it is time for something more substantial, more lasting and to be shared. As far as the people of England are concerned, their cricketers must win the World Cup or all will not be so well with the world. That is not hope, it is expectation. Should it be achieved, the joy and the collective appreciation will know no boundary.

Mark Nicholas, the former Hampshire captain, presents the cricket on Channel Nine in Australia and Channel 5 in the UK